NewsLocal News


Colorado Task Force 1 stays ready for disasters like Surfside building collapse

Colorado Task Force 1
Posted at 4:39 PM, Jul 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-10 19:22:08-04

DENVER -- On search-and-rescue missions, every minute of every hour counts when trying to locate survivors.

That's why Colorado Task Force 1, made up of members from 24 fire agencies across the Front Range, trains often to prepare its volunteers and their canines for all types of disasters.

"It gives us the opportunity to practice in these conditions so that we are ready to go if the time comes again," training manager Mike Parker said Saturday.

The group uses a field near Denver International Airport as a training site to look for survivors beneath rubble.

"We like to have the victim, the live person that we've buried into the rubble, reward the dog to help reinforce that dog, staying right at that victim and continuing to bark," canine search specialist Denise Alvord said.

In Saturday's scenario, for example, Parker placed himself under a makeshift collapse, and Seeker, the canine, had to find him.

"Usually they always have to bark to indicate that they've found a victim, but they might come right up to the victim and just let them know that they're there," Parker said.

After circling the collapse a few times, Seeker made a discovery and alerted their handler.

In most situations, the canines can't access the survivors. That's when the search crews bring in a camera that offers 360° of a tight space.

"We'll look for anything from hands, feet or just body parts from people that are trapped or maybe unconscious at that point," volunteer Steve Johnson, who was operating the camera, said.

These search-and-rescue teams never know when they'll get the call to deploy to a disaster, but they stay ready for when that phone rings.

West Metro Fire Rescue is the sponsoring agency of Colorado Task Force 1. It's one of 28 FEMA Urban Search and Rescue teams nationwide, according to a spokesperson.